2012 Blogging from A-Z: Welcome to April!

It’s time once again for the April Blogging from A-Z Challenge!

Blogging from A-Z Challenge Topics – Things I Love/Hate About Writing


Planning ahead is the best way to handle this dude.  Last year was rough; I didn’t get my ducks in a row.   Not this year.

Every post topic is going to be one thing I love about writing (and maybe one I hate).  They might be the same!

If I have to write them ahead of time, so be it.  I noted this on August 18, 2011 because while taking my walk the day before, I thought of this game plan.

I’ve learned that if I don’t get those little ephemeral mind-ghosts written down right away, they vanish.  I thought of something really cool while mowing once and by the time I got finished and back inside, I’d forgotten it.  Nuts!

I welcome comments on my posts, and I invite you to step over to the Terms and Conditions; Comment Policy Page (see link at top and left of this page) before leaving one.  Thanks for visiting and I hope to see you back when the Challenge begins!

Gran Torino: Hollywood Gets it Right

How many of you saw Gran Torino?

Yeah, yeah, I know I’m behind.  If you’re like me and have not seen it, get the hell to your video store now.  Now!

Seriously, this movie was so good, it puts me into a killing rage over the rest of the lazy pap Hollywood is pumping out.

Kinda like this guy...

Warner Bros. Pictures / NYT

Situation:  Walt Kowalski, a weathered and misanthropic Korean War veteran has lost his wife.  A Hmong family is living next door to him, much to his crabby, racist chagrin. One night he catches their teenaged son Thao Vang Lor in his garage, clumsily attempting to steal his cherry 1970s Gran Torino as part of a gang initiation.  The family is ashamed and offers the kid’s services as reparation.  And so it begins.

Clint Eastwood has been working in films for decades.  The man knows a good story when he sees it.  He took one look at Nick Schenk’s freshly-optioned screenplay and insisted not a word be changed.

The story takes its time building the characters.  We get to know Walt fairly quickly, because he doesn’t hide his personality in the least.  Thao has a sister, Sue, who breaks through Walt’s crusty exterior not by being sweet and sunny, but by not taking any of his shit.

As the neighbors slowly and painfully get to know each other, we see that they each have troubles and conflicts.  Thao’s problems start to spill over into Walt’s life (and onto his lawn) not just because they live next door to each other, but because they are becoming friends.

Each scene moves the story along, a sign of good writing.  There is nothing wasted here.  I had no sense of time passing as I watched the film, as I often do when a story is packed with tedious filler.  Even the long and excruciatingly awkward barbecue Walt attends when he’s first invited over by Sue has its purpose in establishing first contact.

Schenk, a television writer, hit this one out of the ballpark.  If he never produces another screenplay, it won’t matter.  It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy to know that this genial-looking writer, the same age as me, toiling away in TV work, had such a success.  If he can, I can.

To my friend who said “You can’t do anything important after 30,” TAKE THAT!

When a writer does something this good, it inspires the rest of us.  When Hollywood can take a powerful, affecting story and not screw it up, a tiny flicker of hope kindles inside me for the future of movies.  The day Eastwood no longer walks among us will be a tremendous loss and I hope there are other directors coming up behind him who are up to the challenge.

Watch the trailer for Gran Torino here.



Vocabulary: M M Good

It’s been a while since I did a vocabulary post.  Today’s letter is M, which stands for mother, marker, mythology and muwahahaha.

Madder – a reddish-orange dye or paint color.

The red alert lights on the Enterprise produced a shiny madder glow on Captain Picard’s bald head.  

Manticore –  a mythical monster with a human head, the body of a lion, and a scorpion’s tail.   Yecch!

Why this thing hasn't turned up in a Batman movie, I can't imagine.

Image:  via Wikimedia Commons

Mercurial – volatile.

Sylvia’s mercurial nature combined with her neighbor’s loud muffler created a situation guaranteed to end in bloodshed. 

Metallurgy – the study of metallic elements.

“Suicide.  It’s elementary, my dear Watson,” Sherlock proclaimed.  “The dead man had studied metallurgy, therefore he would have known that breathing smelter dust, with its high level of cadmium, would kill him.”

Mhorr (also mohr) – a West African species of gazelle, known for the rings on its antlers. Like goats, mhorr also produce bezoar, a stonelike substance found in the stomach or intestines and believed to be an antidote for poison.   In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry uses a bezoar to save his friend Ron from death after Ron mistakenly drinks poisoned mead.

I iz in ur stomach, savin ur lifes.

Image : Ivanhoe / Wikipedia Commons

Mickey (also Mickey Finn) – a drink that has been doped to render the recipient unconscious or helpless.

Batman refused the delicious, foamy root beer Joker offered him, in case the clown was trying to slip him a mickey. 

 Misogyny – hatred or mistrust of women.  What US politicians are currently displaying.

Monkery – monastic life, including behavior, routines, etc.

Han Solo’s brash ways did not suit his disguise as a member of the Order of Dai Bendu; he was unable to assume a convincing appearance of monkery. 

Morel – a member of the genus Morchella, typically a sponge-shaped mushroom sought as a delicacy.  I’ve had them; they’re not bad, considering I usually hate mushrooms.

M. esculenta, the common morel. Or an uncommonly large boogie.

Image: Mary Smiley / Wikimedia Commons

Mucilage – something sticky.  Usually refers to glue, but may mean other, more unpleasant substances.

“Earth’s sundew plant produces a sticky mucilage it uses to catch insects, which it then devours,” the Doctor explained.  “AlphaBeta IV’s version of the sundew is much, much larger, large enough to—DON’T!  MOVE!” He grinned.  “If you take one more step, Rory, you’ll be lunch for a plant.” 

Mugwump – someone who is neutral, i.e. in politics or regarding controversial issues.

Myrrh  – a secretion of the Myrris odorata plant, used in incense and perfumes.  In Christian lore, the Three Wise Men, or Magi, brought it along with gold and frankincense (kinda the same thing) as a gift to the newborn Jesus Christ.

Painting The Adoration of the Magi by Raphael / Wikimedia Commons

Mynheer (mahyn-HAIR) – in Dutch, the word for mister, or sir.

That’s all for today’s vocabulary post.  See you next time!  (Every time I say that, I hear The Mickey Mouse Club theme in my head.  Damn, I’m old.)